The Mountains of Arizona •
Spruce Mountain & Lookout • Bradshaw Mountains
• Prescott National Forest
• Yavapai County

The trail ... looked a lot like this the entire way

Spruce Mountain Lookout

Now immediately below it

View south at Mount Union. The rock to the left is the highpoint of the peak

View west at Granite Mountain

View north of the "Big 4" --- Bill Williams, Sitgreaves, Kendrick and Humphreys Peaks

Sign at the top where the access road ends

Trail map at the trailhead

All images

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Date: October 23, 2016 • Elevation: 7,696 feet • Prominence: 696 feet • Distance: 7 miles • Time: 2 hours and 45 minutes • Gain: 1,340 feet • Conditions: Sunny and warm


I've had my eye on Spruce Mountain, a mid-sized peak along the Senator Highway outside of Prescott, for about a year now. There's a good trail and a lookout on top, plus a Forest Service campground a couple miles away. It was something I could hike while camping with βð, staying out of the horrendous summer heat in the deserts.

With Fall officially here, but still warm in the deserts (high 90s), and noting that our intended campground, Lower Wolf Creek, closes on October 31 for the winter, I proposed we go now, beat the heat a little, enjoy some cooler air and quiet time in the forest. She resisted for a millisecond before agreeing it was a good idea.

I got us all packed and we were on the road in the late afternoon, arriving in Prescott just as the sun set. I followed the Senator Highway out of town for about six miles through the community of Groom Creek, then onto Wolf Creek Road, to the campground. It was only about 7 p.m., but it was dark by now.

I rolled into the campground and we were bummed to discover all the spots were taken, and not just by people in tents, but people in big, massive RVs towing ATVs and that sort of thing. It was bursting with people, and it was loud. So we left and the tried some other roads. I had pulled to the side and some guy rolled up beside me suggesting some areas down the road a few miles. He mentioned it was the first day of hunting season. That would explain it!

I'm usually pretty good about tracking what seasons open where and over the years have never had a negative encounter with hunters. But I don't always know the exact dates in the exact hunting units, and this time, I got bit by my lack of knowledge. Every single decent spot for miles was taken up by someone or some group. A quiet camping experience was not going to happen.

So now we had to develop a secondary plan. I drove back into Prescott, and we debated whether to drive to Flagstaff and camp up there, or stay in a hotel here in town. I was partial to staying in town, and she was amenable to any decent plan. She called a few places and we got a room at the local Motel-6 for a reasonable rate. Thus, we would "camp" at the hotel. At least we were here and settled in.

I planned to hike Spruce Mountain the next morning, but I was in no hurry and didn't leave the hotel until after 10 a.m., the drive south to Groom Creek and the trailhead taking about twenty minutes. I parked in the small lot for "Trail 307", got my stuff situated, checked out the signs, and started in at 10:40. The day was sunny and a little warm, even at 6,400 feet elevation.

Trail 307 is a loop, where a left goes to the summit in 3.5 miles, while a right would get you there in 6 miles. I went left, and for the first quarter-mile, the trail paralleled a forest road before turning right and starting the uphill grades toward the top. I had plenty of shade provided by the ponderosa, with some gambel oaks intermixed. The forest wasn't too thick, and often I had direct sun, then shade, so it was a nice mix.

I passed a few people down low, but after a mile, it was just me. The trail is wide and well groomed, and gains toward a bump at 7,002 feet, then drops about 60 feet to a low-point. I rested here in the shade, having covered a little over a mile. Parts of the trail were rocky and chewed-up, other parts were smooth and lovely. A few places, the trail paralleled power lines that went up and over the range.

I kept a fast pace, and closer to the goal, the trail would switchback, the switchbacks shored with log fencing of some sort. People bring their horses here so I assumed these were for the horses. The final couple-hundred feet was steep, but quickly, I was at the end of the trail and standing in the saddle south of the summit. An older couple had hiked here and were eating at one of the picnic tables.

The summit was nearby, still about 70 feet higher. I walked up the road, then a path to the big tower. The highest point was a rock on the south side. I rested on a concrete foundation and had a snack, plus shooting photos and identifying the various surrounding peaks. It had taken me 90 minutes, covering 3.5 miles with over 1,300 feet of gain. I rested on top for ten minutes.

I ambled back down to the saddle, the older couple now walking up to the tower. We talked briefly. At the saddle, I took a few more photos. There is a road that people can drive to get to this spot, but today, there were no takers.

The hike back to my car took about an hour. I was moving quickly but in no rush, the grades just perfect for me to keep up a slow jog. I met a few more hikers up higher, then more down below, but it was never that crowded. I was back to my car about 1:30 p.m., a little tired but feeling good. This had been a fun, easy and enjoyable hike.

I drove back to the hotel where she was relaxing with her Kindle. I showered, napped, read some stuff on my own Kindle, napped again, then about 4 p.m., went on a scouting mission to check out Glassford Hill, which I had not planned to hike this weekend, but seeing as I now had an opportunity, I wanted to go see what the access was like. I was delighted to discover a brand-new trail had just opened, so early the next morning, I hiked Glassford Hill before we drove back home.

Although we did not get to camp in the tent and enjoy cool nighttime air and chirping birdies, we still had fun, having learned long ago to roll with the punches and assume nothing ever goes exactly to plan. Spruce Mountain is a fun hike with good trail access and no tricky sections. I recommend it, even if it's not as high as its neighboring peaks.

(c) 2016 Scott Surgent. For entertainment purposes only. This report is not meant to replace maps, compass, gps and other common sense hiking/navigation items. Neither I nor the webhost can be held responsible for unfortunate situations that may arise based on these trip reports. Conditions (physical and legal) change over time! Some of these hikes are major mountaineering or backpacking endeavors that require skill, proper gear, proper fitness and general experience.